Osteopathic medicine was conceived in the late 1800s by an American frontier doctor, Andrew Taylor Still, who recognized the limitations in the medical care of his day and approached the treatment of the patient from an aspect of complete unity. That is, man is the unified whole of all his components, which interrelate inseparably in physical and psychological functions. He articulated a set of principles that have continued to guide the profession into its second century. These are:
- The body is an integral unit, a whole. The structure of the body and its functions work together interdependently.
- The body systems have built-in repair processes that are self-regulating and self-healing in the face of disease.
- The circulatory system with its distributive channels throughout the body, along with the nervous system, provides the integrating functions for the rest of the body.
- The contribution of the musculoskeletal system to a person's health is much more than providing framework and support. The musculoskeletal system and disorders of the musculoskeletal system may affect the functioning of other body systems.
- While disease may be manifested in specific parts of the body, other body parts may contribute to restoration or correction of the disease.
The first school of osteopathic medicine was founded by Dr. Still in 1892 in Kirksville, Missouri (now the A.T. Still University - Kirksville College of Osteopathic Medicine). There are currently 31 colleges of osteopathic medicine, offering instruction at 44 locations in 29 U.S. states, which offer the doctor of osteopathic medicine (D.O.) degree.